The second foundation of a successful educational program for the AD/HD student is the way in which the classroom is structured. The following are tips for creating a structure that is flexible and stimulating, but that also provides clear boundaries and structure:
- A stimulating but not distracting physical environment: Some meaningful stimulation on the walls can help the AD/HD child. But clutter and disorganization will be distracting. (Create some physical organization – don’t put something on the walls just for the sake of filling up space. Divide the room into easily understandable areas. The walls are for information like rules, consequences, schedules, etc. I liked stimulation but never could see where something was. Keep materials that are not in use put away. Limit student noise to a low-normal level.
- Preferential seating and screens when needed: Some AD/HD children appear to benefit from sitting in the front row or near the front of the class. Isolating the AD/HD child as a punishment or to remove him from distraction usually does not work. Typically, the child will tune out more, or will engage in more negative attention getting behaviors.Teachers also employ cardboard, three-cornered “screens” during individual seatwork, to cut out distraction.
- Pace the presentation of information: Try to use several short work periods to teach a theme area, instead of one prolonged work session. If possible, provide periodic exercise or stretching/activity periods between lessons. Even a brief two minute structured break can be helpful
- Avoid completely unstructured time. If the child completes a lesson in the correct manner, before the other children, make sure there is some other interesting task to choose from, while he is waiting. Plan interesting activities during waiting time or “breaks in the action.”
- Maintain a consistent routine: Try to keep the structure of the day and the rules of the classroom as consistent as possible. Try to keep rules of behavior and organization as similar as possible, from classroom to classroom. Try to use some kind of visual schedule in the classroom, that can be altered as needed, so that the child can keep track of the sequence of the day and any changes in routine that are upcoming.
- Allow organized, ordered movement: AD/HD children can’t remain in their seats for long periods without losing focus. Allow organized movement to different areas and movement to different small work groups for cooperative projects. Don’t assume that the student can stay in a passive “listening” role for more than a few minutes at a time, even on medication, without considerable loss of retention. However, make sure that children know what types of movement and to “where” movement is allowed. Don’t allow any gray areas in regard to the boundaries.